Chicken Thigh Done Temp – The Safe Serving Temperatures For Chicken

Chicken thighs have more fat and blood vessels than other parts of the chicken—which is why the thighs are the most flavorful parts of the bird. However, chicken contains a lot of harmful bacteria, so it needs to be cooked to a precise internal meat temperature. Avoid “eyeballing” chicken. Always use high-quality instant read thermometers to give you an accurate reading. 

Chicken thighs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 175°F, while the internal temperature of the breast in a whole chicken should be 165°F. When cooking chicken, the thighs and legs should be positioned towards the hottest part of the grill or smoker for optimal results. The temperature of the chicken should not drop below 140°F during cooking or storage, and should not exceed 40°F when defrosting. To achieve a crispy skin, cook chicken in the 300°F range. The pink color that may appear on smoked chicken is due to a chemical reaction on the surface of the meat and does not indicate that the chicken is undercooked. It is important to periodically test and calibrate instant-read thermometers for accuracy, and to replace them if they are consistently inaccurate.

Key Points

  1. Chicken thighs have more fat and blood vessels, making them more flavorful than other parts of the chicken
  2. Chicken must be cooked to a precise internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria
  3. High-quality instant-read thermometers are necessary for accurate readings
  4. Chicken thighs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 175° F
  5. When cooking a whole chicken, probe the breast and thigh for temperature, aiming for 165° F in the breast
  6. When cooking whole chicken, position the thighs and legs towards the hottest part of the grill or smoker
  7. When cooking chicken, avoid letting the temperature drop below 140° F and don’t allow it to go above 40° F when storing or defrosting
  8. For a crispy skin, cook chicken in the 300° F range
  9. The pink color in smoked chicken is due to a chemical reaction on the surface of the meat and does not indicate that the chicken is undercooked
  10. High-quality instant-read thermometers are essential for accurate temperature readings and can be checked for accuracy through boiling water and ice bath tests
  11. If a thermometer is consistently inaccurate, it should be calibrated or replaced.

Why Chicken is Dangerous

When it comes to cooking chicken, it’s important to make sure that it’s cooked all the way through to a safe temperature. If chicken is undercooked, it can be contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can cause food poisoning.

These bacteria are commonly found on the surface of raw chicken and can be spread to other surfaces and foods if the chicken is not handled properly. When the chicken is cooked, the heat kills the bacteria and makes it safe to eat. However, if the chicken is undercooked, the bacteria can survive and cause illness.

Symptoms of food poisoning from undercooked chicken can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. In severe cases, it can lead to more serious complications, such as dehydration and infections.

To prevent food poisoning from undercooked chicken, it’s important to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken. The recommended safe temperature for cooked chicken is 165°F (74°C). This temperature is high enough to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present on the chicken.

So, to be safe, always make sure to cook your chicken to a safe temperature and use a food thermometer to check. It may take a little bit longer to cook, but it’s worth it to avoid any potential risks.

MethodTemperature (°F / °C)Cooking TimeInternal Temperature (°F / °C)
Oven-roasted425-450°F / 220-230°C25-30 minutes per pound (450-675 grams)N/A
Grilled350-450°F / 175-230°C6-8 minutes per side165°F / 74°C
Pan-friedN/A6-8 minutes per side165°F / 74°C
Slow cookerN/A4-6 hours on low, 2-3 hours on high165°F / 74°C

How to Smoke Chicken Thighs

Cooking chicken to the right temperature is an important step to ensure that it is safe to eat. If chicken is not cooked to a high enough temperature, it can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

To ensure that your chicken is cooked to a safe temperature, it is important to use a food thermometer. The best way to check the temperature of the chicken is to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, avoiding any bones as they can conduct heat differently and give a false reading.

There are a few different types of food thermometers that you can use to check the temperature of your chicken. One type is an instant-read thermometer, which gives a reading within seconds and is useful for checking the temperature of smaller cuts of chicken. Another type is a probe thermometer, which can be inserted into the chicken before cooking and left in place while it cooks. This is a good option for larger cuts of chicken, such as a whole bird, as it allows you to monitor the temperature as it cooks.

To get crispy skin on your chicken, it is important to dry the skin thoroughly before cooking. This can be done by patting the skin with paper towels or leaving the chicken uncovered in the refrigerator for a few hours. When the chicken is cooked, the skin should be golden brown and crisp.

Cooking times for chicken will vary depending on the size and type of chicken you are cooking, as well as the cooking method. Here are some general guidelines for cooking times and temperatures for different types of chicken:

Type of ChickenCooking Time (minutes per pound)Internal Temperature (°F / °C)
Whole bird25-30165 (74)
Boneless breasts15-20165 (74)
Thighs40-50165 (74)
Wings40-50165 (74)

The Perfect Temperature for Smoking Chicken Thighs

When you’re cooking a whole chicken, it’s important to probe the internal temperature of both the breast and the thigh. You’ll want to aim for 165° F in the breast, but be careful not to overcook it. The breast is lean and can dry out quickly if it’s overcooked.

One thing to keep in mind when cooking a whole chicken is to position the thighs and legs towards the hottest part of your grill or smoker. The thighs and legs have more fat and blood vessels, so they can handle more heat than the breast. The breast tends to dry out easily because it has very little fat to keep it moist.

When checking the temperature of a whole chicken, be sure to probe the meat in both the thigh and the breast. Avoid probing too close to the bones and try to insert the thermometer a few inches in. Most thermometers only need to be inserted about 1/4 of the way in, but make sure the sensor can get a good reading.

The Dangers of Chicken

It’s important to remember that chicken can contain harmful bacteria like salmonella, staphylococci, and E. coli. To kill these bacteria and make the chicken safe to eat, it needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F. Bacteria are killed when the temperature is between 40° F and 140° F, so it’s important to keep the chicken outside of this range when cooking, storing, or defrosting it.

Instant-Read Thermometers

The best way to verify the temperature of meat is with a quality instant-read thermometer—but it’s important to buy one that’s accurate. What’s the point of using a thermometer if it’s inaccurate? There are dozens of cheap-and-nasty thermometers in stores and online—but most are a waste of money. Do your research and buy a good thermometer that is guaranteed to give fast and accurate readings. 

Some of the common cheap thermometers give readings in 10 seconds or longer, whereas high-quality thermometers give readings within 2 or 3 seconds. Speed is one thing but accuracy is the most important feature of the instant-read thermometer. You can check your accuracy of your thermometer by doing an ice bath test, or a boiling water test. Check out this article on how to calibrate a thermometer, and I’ll walk you through the entire process. 

How to Test a Thermometer for Accuracy

A quick-and-easy way of checking the accuracy of your thermometer is by performing a couple of tests. The first is a boiling water test and the second is an ice bath test. 

  • Take a jug of water and fill it with ice and water. 
  • Place the thermometer into the water. 
  • Ice water should give a reading of 32.0°F within ±0.1°F. 

The other test you can perform is the boiling water test. Water boils at 212° F°. 

What to do if your Thermometer is Inaccurate? 

After testing your thermometer, you may notice that its out by 10⁰ or 20°. So if your chicken thighs are reading 165° F, they could in fact only be 150° F—which could put you and your family at risk. You can continue using the thermometer, as long as you are aware of the temperature difference.

When it comes to instant-read thermometers, the Thermapen is the gold standard. The Thermopen is the thermometer used by chefs, celebrity cooks and YouTube barbecue gurus. However, the Thermapen is expensive (about $100). There are several Thermapen alternatives that give fast and accurate readings for 1/4 of the price. 

The best Thermopen alternative is the TP19. This instant-read gives 2-3 second readings, has great accuracy and durability. It has many of the features seen in the Thermopen, but is far more affordable. Other excellent products include the Lavatools Javelin Pro—a popular Amazon thermometer. Thermoworks also sell so many thermometers called the Thermopop and the Dash, which are highly accurate and sell for around about $30. 

The Science Behind the Pink Color in Smoked Chicken

If you are smoking the chicken, you will notice a pink ring from on the outer layer of the meat. This can be deceiving and looks raw. However, this is not the case. This is why it’s so important to probe your chicken with an instant-read thermometer. The smoke ring is a chemical reaction that occurs on the surface of the meat. The smoke preserves the pink pigment of the chicken—making it look raw. 

How to Get a Crispy Skin

If you’re looking to get a crispy skin on your chicken, aim to cook it in the 300° F range. If the temperature is lower than 275° F, the skin will be soft and rubbery. You can go as high as 350° F, but be careful not to dry out the chicken.

  • If you want to get crispy skin on a chicken, always cook above 300° F. 
  • Dry the chicken as much as possible using a paper towel. 
  • If smoking, remove the water pan and do not spritz the chicken. 
  • If you are smoking or grilling, spray the chicken with olive oil during the cook. 
  • Don’t soak the chicken in a brine, otherwise this will make the skin soft and rubbery. 

Tips for Smoking Chicken Thighs

Smoking chicken thighs can be a delicious way to add flavor to the meat and create a tender, moist texture. Here are some tips from barbecue pitmasters, barbecue gurus, celebrity chefs, and competition pitmasters on how to smoke chicken thighs:

  1. Choose the right wood: Different types of wood will impart different flavors onto the chicken. Some good options for smoking chicken thighs include apple, cherry, oak, hickory, and pecan. Experiment with different woods to find the flavor that you like best.
  2. Trim excess fat: Trimming excess fat from the chicken thighs will help to prevent flare-ups and keep the meat moist while it smokes.
  3. Use a dry rub or marinade: To add flavor to the chicken, you can use a dry rub or marinade before smoking. Rubs are made of a blend of spices and can be applied to the chicken before smoking. Marinades are typically made of acidic ingredients (such as vinegar or citrus juice) and can help to tenderize the meat.
  4. Preheat the smoker: Preheat the smoker to 225-250°F (107-121°C). This will help to ensure that the chicken cooks evenly and at the right temperature.
  5. Place the chicken on the smoker: Place the chicken thighs on the smoker, skin-side up, and smoke for about 2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
  6. Check the temperature: Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken to ensure that it is fully cooked.
  7. Rest the chicken: Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. This will allow the juices to redistribute and will make the chicken more tender.
  8. Keep moist. To keep the chicken moist, you can use a spray bottle filled with apple juice or vinegar to spritz the chicken every hour or so during the smoking process.
  9. Crispy skin. To get crispy skin on the chicken, you can increase the temperature of the smoker to 300-350°F (149-177°C) for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking.

How To Cook Chicken Thighs On A Grill

  • Cover the chicken thighs in your favorite barbecue rub. 
  • Set the temperature of your grill or smoker it to about 300° F. 
  • Cook the chicken wings for about 45 minutes one side.
  • Flip the thighs and cook for another 30 minutes the other. 
  • Baste the chicken thighs with barbecue sauce, then cook for another 10 minutes to allow the glaze to set.
  • Cook until the thighs to reach an internal temperature of 170° F.
  • Allow the thighs to rest in foil for 10 minutes. The thighs will come up to 175° F. 

Best Rub for Chicken Thighs

There are dozens of rubs on the market, but my favorite would have to be Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy or Malcolm Reed’s Killer Hogs. These rubs are made by barbecue gurus, so they are guaranteed to be good. Always watch the salt content in your barbecue rubs. I always prefer to salt my meat separately. There are dozens of homemade recipes, but this one has to be my favorite, check the ingredients. The thing I like about this recipe, as you can add and remove some spices. I always remove the salt from this recipe, and salt my chicken separately prior to smoking or grilling.

Glaze for Chicken Thighs

It’s always good to apply a glaze to chicken thighs in the last 10 minutes of the cook. You need to allow about 10 minutes for the glaze to set. You don’t want to add the sauce too early. Barbecue sauce can burn because it contains a lot of sugar, so only put the sauce onto the chicken during the last 10 minutes. You can use just about any barbecue sauce, just use your favorite.

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.

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Author and founder at Meat Smoking HQ

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